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Heaven,” Jonathan Edwards says in the fifteenth and last of his Charity Sermons, “is a World of Love.” In saying this, however, he did not seem to have in mind what many of us might -immediately hope for or suppose. To be sure, in one of his Miscellanies, asking himself “whether the saints, when they go to heaven, have any special comfort in their meeting with those that were their godly friends on earth,” Edwards answers affirmatively. He suggests that they would find -special comfort in seeing again in bliss those with whom they had been close in this earthly life.

But in “Heaven, A World of Love” Edwards is more circumspect. What the saints will find in heaven is not loved ones from whom they have been parted but the one for whose sake “they were ready to undergo the severest sufferings, or to forsake father and mother, and wife, and children, and lands.” Moreover, as the editor of the Ethical Writings in the Yale edition of Edwards’s Works observes in a footnote, “Sermon Fifteen is remarkable in that it omits discussion of the reunion of family members and friends as one of heaven’s attractions.” To be sure, loving God for his own sake “and each other for God’s sake,” the saints in heaven shall, Edwards says, “be united together in a very near relation.” But there will, it seems, be no need for any distinction between near and more distant neighbors; rather, all “shall be related to one another as brethren.” Appealing as this may be in some respects, can we honestly say it is what we hope for? After all, if everyone is “special” to me, it might seem that no one is—that there is no particular reason to hope for reunion with those who were especially close to me in this life.

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